Well, here we are, with a new set upon us, and I’ve taken it upon myself to write a set review for Avacyn Restored. Hopefully, as a large set, with a stand-alone limited format, there’ll be a bit to talk about, and the individual cards will be a bit more exciting to talk about in terms of their constructed applications.
As before, I’m starting writing this on the Monday that the set was spoiled, and I haven’t really been paying any attention to the spoilers up until now, so these are pretty much my first impressions of the cards, for good or ill. I know that last time, I posted a bunch of links around Facebook and the like, and there was quite a bit of discussion about cards. What I would ask of you is that this time, you post any comments in the bottom of the article, as this not only makes it easier for me to keep track of what’s being said (I’m very old), and will hopefully generate a bit more discussion about the new cards. Plus, last time, I made a few mistakes, so you can make me look foolish to a broader audience, which can’t be bad, right?
White Avacyn Restored Cards
White comes first, so I see no reason to start anywhere else. Constructed wise, my focus is generally going to be in Standard, as I’m not a big eternal player, so please, if I miss something that’s obviously a 4-of in every vintage deck, don’t hold my ignorance of the format against me.
It sure costs a lot. While Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is legal, I can’t see this getting any play. Exiling is admittedly better when facing something like Geralf’s Messenger, but Elesh has far more versatility. Humans as a deck is already doing a pretty good job of recycling its creatures through Moorland Haunt as is, and definitely isn’t in need of a 7-drop.
How good this is in limited is obviously deck dependent, in both yours and your opponents respective cases, but the body is large, evasive, and will probably have at least some marginal utility if you’re in white, so it’s pretty much always going to be playable in a more controlling limited deck (assuming such a thing is actually viable, and we’re not looking at another Zendikar block or M12-esque format).
An anthem effect stapled onto an already aggressively costed creature, plus another useful ability means that this will certainly see constructed play. In a lot of token based strategies, it’s hard to straddle the line between anthem effects and threats. Angel of Jubilation fills both roles, all while dodging some of the more prevalent removal effects. Turning off Liliana of the Veil is sure to be huge in Block Constructed, not to mention Tribute to Hunger, and many of the other removal spells in other formats.
Angel of Jubilation probably occupies a similar space to Hellrider (a card which I initially thought was poor), and seems like it’ll probably jump between the two of them as to which card is better depending on format shifts.
I’ve Mystical Teachings’d for Rest for the Weary before. I’ve even Snapcaster Maged it, to cast it again. That card was borderline playable. I don’t want to play this card in constructed, and if you do want to play it, you’ll need your opponents to have mercy on you, not just the angels.
For those of you unfamiliar with why pure life-gain cards are bad, it does nothing to impact the board state which has necessitated your need to gain life, and it’s very likely that in one or two turns, you’ll be in exactly the same situation as you were in before, and all you’ve done is invest your turn in a card that should have been a potential answer to your problems. It’s going to be ok, if the red deck isn’t permanent based, and of the more Lava Spike type, but that’s not the world we’re living in, so we don’t really want this card.
I’ve been clamouring for a Wall of Omens reprint in this set, and this is what we presumably get instead. If I’m going to get beaten down by Gravecrawlers and Geralf’s Messengers and co all day, I’d quite like a value card to hold them off for a while. This trades ‘Draw a card’ for ‘flying’, which is, I suppose, ok, given the current prevalence of a certain 1-mana Blue creature that seems almost ubiquitous with winning in standard, and I’d expect to see it in the sideboards of a few white-based control decks. The difference between this and Wall of Omens is that this isn’t a maindeck card, and that’s obviously going to hurt its chances of seeing any constructed play.
Depending on the limited environment, this might be ok. It certainly seems like it’s going to be quite a slow, grindy format, as everything seems really expensive. This might be necessary to hold off all of the Glory Hunters and Grizzly Bears that people will be packing their decks with. I think if you pack your decks with too many of them though, you’ll be setting yourself up for an Angelic fall, as you’ll want cards that proactively interact with your opponents.
This is a pretty big guy. One of my friends was Pondering how good Serra Angel might be in this current standard format. It’s pretty out of the box, but it’s not outside the realms of possibility. Adding two mana for +1/+1 doesn’t make it any better, and certainly doesn’t make it pass every fatty-boom-boom’s arch enemy; the Vapor Snag test.
I’ve got a set of Portal ones of these from back in my casual days, so I’m pretty happy to see this return, even if it’ll never actually see play. It’s presumably going to be a reasonably decent curve topper in a white limited deck, as Dragons are seldom bad.
The cost is obviously a joke, so we’re going to be looking at ways to sneak her into play. We’ve now got 2 realistic ways to do so, in Unburial Rites and fellow new card Deny Death. If we’re going to all the trouble of actually reanimating Avacyn, we’d better hope that it’s got an impact. I’d recommend any of you who haven’t already reading Rob’s article ‘Untapping with Griselbrand’. Pretty much everything that Rob says is also true about Avacyn, and her board impact isn’t significant enough to warrant playing over any of the Titans, or Elesh Norn, or Griselbrand etc. If you go to the trouble of actually reanimating this, and it gets Vapor Snagged, you’re certainly going to be hoping that the earth swallows you hole, as you’ve accomplished the sum total of nothing bar Time Walking yourself for multiple turns while setting this up.
Oooh, our first miracle card!!
It certainly costs a lot, so its constructed playability depends entirely on how able we are to manipulate the top of our library, or whether we feel lucky enough to run these. I’d expect that this is analogous to Condemn when you’re miracleing(do we have an accepted term for this yet?), and stone cold awful when you’re not. I don’t remember Condemn seeing particularly wide-spread play when it made its last appearance in Standard, so I wouldn’t expect this to be particularly different, and would expect it to be banished to the standard-unplayables file.
It’s probably fine in limited. Removal is removal, after all…
So in the first two blocks, we get Curses, and in the third, we get Blessings? I’ll be counting my blessings if there aren’t too many more cards as bad as this in the set. So much mana for so little return…
Holy Strength + Flight on one enchantment. While Spectral Flight is legal, which will, coincidentally, be the entirety of Call to Serve’s tenure in the format, this shouldn’t see any play in your 60-card decks.
Cards like this can be called on to serve specific functions in limited, however, and this will probably be sided in a bit, against decks with a lot of evasive creatures, or inability to deal with fliers. Probably only in the most fringe of cases, but I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be enchanting my creatures.
An improved version of Door of Destinies, for those who are into that sort of thing. Again, it costs a lot, and there are plenty more anthem effects available if you’re in the market for such a thing. I feel like this is far more of a casual card, but I’d be quite comfortable picking these up in foil as trade fodder for Commander players, who generally love Anthem effects, and seem to be on a Crusade to fill decks with as many of them as possible.
I’ve played Lone Missionary before. In Constructed. Would a reprint be out of the question? I can’t ever see this guy entering the sanctified ground that is a 60 card deck. She doesn’t have enough of a body to justify inclusion against the red-deck.
I loves me a Momentary Blink. Loves it. Snapcaster Mage kind of makes a Momentary Blink, right? How playable this is depends on both the removal of the format and whether we’re Blinking something worthwhile. Back in my casual days, I’ve Momentary Blinked a Bogardan Hellkite after putting him onto the battlefield with an Aethermage’s Touch. Fun times.
Shifting to more modern times, we can obviously re-(ab)use the ETB triggers on Titans, or give one of our guys surprise vigilance, or dodge removal spells, as well as many other applications. I doubt this is going to see a lot of play, but it’s a cute card, and I’m a fan.
I got a headache while looking at this card. How bright is it?!
The art is absolutely gorgeous, but obviously, I’m not authority on art. It’s totally awful though, which is a shame.
In a world where Revoke Existence and Divine offering are fighting for space, it seems unlikely that a little life-gain is going to help this card breakthrough into 60-card land. Post rotation, there’s this, Crushing Vines and Silverchase Fox as your premier enchantment hate, but whether or not this is necessary is unclear. I don’t see many enchantments on battlefields at present, outside of Curse of Death’s Hold. For that reason, I’d expect it to spend most of its time confined to limited sideboards.
Here’s our Pacifism variant. While Pacifism is around, this will never make a 60-card deck.
I’m almost always playing this in limited if I’m white, but it’s not good enough to warrant a splash just for this, like Pacifism is.
This is going to ruin a lot of peoples days in limited, as rebuying cards that your opponent has previously dealt with is huge, and the potential +1/+1 counters when considering this set makes it even better.
In constructed, however, we’re occupying the same space as Unburial Rites, which is not a good place to be. In pretty much any deck that would want this type of effect, you’re going to be looking at Unburial Rites over this. Especially with Liliana going so hand-in-hand with reanimator-based strategies, we’re looking at more hoops for this card to jump through to actually see play.
Perhaps it will defy the odds, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Here’s the thing; You’ll need to have 3 guys on the board, to deal with one artifact or enchantment. I’m not a fan of overcommiting myself to a board, nor can I think of anything that I’d be particularly concerned about enough to consider the overcommitment and use of a turn in constructed.
The same is largely true in limited, though with a caveat. Board stalls can often develop which necessitate a number of unused attack/block steps, this is where Devout Chaplain could feasibly be useful, helping you chip away at equipment and enhancements and the like, and it’s not like his stats are awful in combat either. I guess what I’m saying is that he’ll be in my limited decks more often than he’ll be (dev)out.
When my girlfriend was learning to play Magic, I built a bunch of 40-card decks using M10 cards, and sent her to see Andy Morrison in the pub. I joined them after a couple of hours, to see how they were doing. He said it was going fine, but yelled at me for including Harm’s Way in the white deck. Harm’s Way was one of the trickiest cards to use and explain in standard at the time, and there were unintuitive things about how it worked based on reading. This is similar to Harm’s Way, but slightly more complex, and I’m assuming that’s why it’s a rare.
I’m a pretty big fan of this type of effect, as it’s essentially a Fireball in white, but at instant speed. I can’t really see myself ever passing this in limited, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this in constructed. This sort of card makes short work of an opponent’s ‘swing for the win’ sort of play, and could even result in your opponents creatures killing them, not to mention just being used as a Wrack with Madness sort of effect.
I can imagine card alterers lining up to change this to a picture of Abraham Lincoln.
Kor Skyfisher’s was a pretty sweet card in its limited format. It’s not unreasonable to expect Emancipation Angel to be similar. It’s aggressively costed to make up for the tempo lost, as worst case scenario, you just return a land. It seems to me that the curves of the white decks are going to be quite high, so obviously not every deck is going to want this, but in the more traditional UW Skies type decks, this is going to be awesome.
Its constructed playability is probably marginal at present, as Silverblade Paladin and Mirran Crusader fit at the same point in the curve, with additional benefits, so it’s unlikely that this will displace them from their positions.
As with all the other Miracle cards, we’ve got to look at how good this is going to be when we cast it normally in order to judge this. As is, if we’re not Miracleing (I’m just going with this), we need to invest 5 mana to get a 4/4. This is obviously a fine amount to pay in limited, but it’s at the 7 through 9 mark that we’re really getting value. Of course, if we Miracle it, and pay 7 mana, we’re getting 20 power worth of fliers, which is clearly nuts.
I can’t see this not being a first pick in limited, and it’s definitely going to see play in constructed, presumably in another white based control strategy, where it’ll be quite the treat.
I don’t think it’ll take much Exploration to discover that this isn’t a constructed level card.
How good this guy is in limited depends entirely how good Black is. He’s already pretty good in terms of his stats alone, but it’s certainly possible that his swamp-walking makes him excellent. I wouldn’t expect this to be a first-pick quality card, but I’d probably take these coming 5-7th pick as a pretty strong signal that white was open.
When I first saw this, I read it as ‘Goodnight, Commander’, which seems better than what we’ve actually got.
He seems like yet another card that encourages you to over-commit to the board, which is not where I want to be. Seems like he’s going to reinforce a lot of players into bad habits of playing creatures pre-combat, which isn’t good. Can’t see him being bad in limited though. His stats are fine, and the ability will help bypass messy board stalls, which is pretty much what I look for in a 4-drop.
While this isn’t a constructed level card, its one redeeming feature is that it’s going to be really good in a 40 card format.
While it seems like white is moving away from the token theme of the previous sets, which would push this into ‘really good’ territory, this still serves an important purpose. Where it’s different to a card like, say Angel’s Mercy, is that rather than life gain being its sole purpose, an incidental life-gain on top of an already reasonably sized body is pretty sweet. Even on an empty board, the Redeemer isn’t going to be embarrassing, and in a stall, it’s evasive, and will put you back up to a respectable life total, hopefully letting you make some probing attacks to discover how to break the stall.
This one is pretty difficult to evaluate. It’s going to be pretty good in limited, as it seems like most of white’s creatures are either Angels or Humans, but whether or not this will see play in constructed is unheralded. I can see this in a deck that’s trying to turbo out an Avacyn, Angel of Hope or something similar, but for the most part, you’re going to want a Rampant Growth, as a more reliable way of growing your mana.
My snap call is that this isn’t good enough to see play outside of limited.
Having not looked at the Black and Blue cards, I’m not sure how many zombies there are, but this is going to be fine regardless. Tappers are sweet, and even though this one costs a lot to activate, it’s a powerful enough effect to justify the cost, and use of mana. He’s obviously going to tear a new hole in any zombie-heavy decks.
Cost wise, the effect is a bit steep for constructed formats, unless Zombies becomes the uncontested best deck, and is omni-present enough to necessitate this kind of expensive, narrow hate, which seems unlikely.
I’m not one to leap to conclusions, but this will never see play in constructed.
If the other colours have as many fliers as white does, I don’t have much faith it’ll see play in limited either.
I don’t see there being enough Vampires in either constructed or limited to see this guy making any waves, nor are there enough Swords of X + Y in the format for him to hold to overlook that you’re playing with a Sanctuary Cat.
If only he had flash, the differences would have been vast. As is, we’re not looking to a particularly mono-coloured format, nor are we looking at one which is focussed on getting one hit through with a key creature, which will keep Midvast Protector out of any constructed discussions.
Also, the limited format isn’t going to allow his ability to be particularly useful, nor are his stats anything to write home about, so I’ll be expecting to see him as a 14th pick quite often.
I can only hope you built your deck by moonlight if he’s anywhere near your constructed decks.
I presume this Geist is analogous to Lantern Spirit from Innistrad, who was a fine card, for the most part. Evasion is pretty good in white as is, and the stats are fine. I like that he/she/it can hold off a Dragon forever. I’d expect I’ll be playing this card quite a bit.
I’d have some questions to ask if you were considering playing with a Grizzly Bear in constructed. I’ll assume you won’t.
He’s the sort of card that everybody can see coming; A Bear, with a slight upside. People are going to use this guy badly for his tenure in the limited environment for sure. They’ll attack when they shouldn’t, and conversely, people will let him hit for two when they should really be blocking, which will lead to a lot of people getting free wins. I’m fine with him, if unexcited.
Here’s our first Soulbond card. I really like Soulbond as a mechanic, due to the re-pairing clause. It’s a pretty skill testing mechanic, in that it’s going to leave people open to mid-combat blowouts, in exchange for a not insignificant bonus. Whether the card is good enough to stand on its own is generally going to be the test. Nearheath Pilgrim certainly comes close, as a 2/1 for 2 isn’t outside the realms of playability. The next step is to look at how good the bonus granted is, and in this case, we’re again looking at an incidental amount of lifegain. As before, incidental life-gain is fine, and the Pilgrim is no different. I can’t see him being anywhere near a constructed deck, but I’d expect I’d always play him in a white deck, as he’s quite aggressive in and of himself, and the Soulbond would allow a larger creature to help me regain lost ground in a more controlling deck.
This is probably my favourite card in the set. I’ve mentioned above my love of Momentary Blink, and again, she’s a reasonable facsimile of that, on a surprisingly efficient body. This is going to see play in multiple archetypes, presumably at first to get extra value out of Snapcaster Mage and his ilk, while saving creatures from removal spells at the same time. The ability to ‘rebuy’ an undying creature is also pretty sweet.
I like that she doesn’t require a significant commitment to white mana, so beware of a single untapped white source among your opponents lands, as it’s possible that they’re representing Restoration Angel.
There’s no way this is constructed playable whatsoever, and it’ll be fine in limited. We’re not in the tribal blocks of old, and while the creature types aren’t the most varied they’ve ever been, he’s going to make a lot of people upset. All the white creatures seem to be either Angels or Humans, so having to deal with an almost entirely evasive deck is going to spoil a lot of peoples days.
I can’t see any constructed deck that wants to ride his ability to victory, so he’s going to be confined to upsetting people in limited for the next 3 months.
Apparently, we definitely couldn’t get Condemn back. Man, that blows.
Another incidental life-gain card in white, and another efficient, evasive body. The backside on this is what makes it most attractive, as 4 seems like a pretty good amount of toughness to have at the moment. It’s possible that the ability to block a Delver of Secrets profitably will allow the Seraph to have its day in the sun, but 4 mana is a lot, and it doesn’t interact favourably with Vapor Snag. We’re fighting Hero of Bladehold for position here, and I don’t think that’s a fight that will end well for the Seraph of Dawn.
Silverblade Paladin and Mirran Crusader will be fighting for position as the format develops, and I’d expect that which one is better will shift from week to week. Again, I really like the Soulbond mechanic, and this one seems far better than Nearheath Pilgrim, obviously as double-strike has a more immediate and useful impact on the board than lifelink. Guess that’ll be the difference between a common and a rare then?
In limited, we’re looking at an excellent way to break a board stall, as Soulbonding a guy, making some at least semi-profitable attacks then re-pairing with another guy and doing the same will end games pretty quickly. I’m a big fan of the ‘explorative attack’ in limited, and the Paladin makes that all the more profitable.
On the other hand, we have Spectral Gateguards. While the previous two Soulbond cards have been on the cusp of constructed playability, I can say, quite unguardedly, that this isn’t.
His body is fine, and the ability is relevant enough that he might see play in some limited decks, but I’d be surprised to see this in draft decks, though perhaps less so in Sealed, where his body is more likely to stall the ground while your many fliers peck over the top.
6-mana Wrath of God effects seem to have been a staple of recent blocks, see Phyrexian Rebirth, Planar Cleansing, etc. This is definitely one of the better ones. Hallowed Burial was printed back in Lorwyn block as an answer to the persist mechanic, and obviously would function similarly against Undying. However, it’s the addition of Miracle which really make this shine. It’s clearly playable at full retail, but every time you Miracle this, you’re going to feel like a lottery winner, it’s that damn sweet. Day of Judgment is a really good card in standard, while Black Sun’s Zenith is not so much, and that’s down to the cost-to-effectiveness ratio, which is a pretty big factor to consider in cards such as this. I don’t think that we’re going to be replacing our Day of Judgments anytime soon, but I’d be surprised if white control decks weren’t packing one or two of these, even if just for the life-tilt you’re sure to put your opponent on when you top-deck this at an opportune time.
Sweet name as well.
As valiant an effort as he might make, there are many better options than this for constructed.
He’ll be fine in the aggro white draft decks, but it seems like white is a slower colour than usual to me, so I’d expect to see him wheeling, and coming pretty late.
Cloudgoat Ranger, this ain’t. It’s really expensive, for not much. The body is fine, but for 6 mana we need a lot more. Pretty much all that I can say is that it interacts slightly positively with Vapor Snag.
These will go late in draft, and rightly so. Hopefully, the Provinces don’t have much to say, because I doubt their voice will be heard particularly often.
Man, we got all the way to the last card before we got the obligatory white creature pump limited combat trick. It’s fine, and at least people know that they have to play around something. Shouldn’t need to be said that it has no home outside of limited.
Top 5 Cards I think I might play in Constructed:-
Top 5 Commons
The remaining colour reviews will be updated daily. You will be able to find them here…
Till next time, stay classy mtgUK.