Avacyn Restored – Initial Limited Impressions with Tom Harle

How to Get Better at Magic The Gathering by Tom Harle

Initial Thoughts on Avacyn Restored.

Hi all, hope you had a good prerelease weekend, i managed a nice 4-0 in my first event in Oxford off the back of a sweet blue green deck with Revenge of the Hunted, and a dissapointing 1-3 with a blue white deck in the second.  Rather than share my pools or anything I thought I’d just go through my initial thoughts on the format and then highlight some of the more interesting commons and uncommons that caught my eye as being either much better or worse than I’d expected.


The Colours

Firstly I’m afraid to say I wasn’t a huge fan of the format from the first two events.  Blue white and green really have the lions share of the playable commons and uncommons which leads to a lot of sealed decks being very similar.  Hopefully Red and Black will have a place in draft somewhere but in sealed deck it’s very possible for every pool to open lots of good blue white and green cards and just look and play very similarly.  Additionally a lot of the good cards are very defensive, with cards like Seraph of Dawn, Nearheath Stalker and Goldnight Redeemer capable of gaining quite a bit of life (especially if you start returning the Redeemer to hand or Cloudshifting it) which makes a lot of games stall out and go very long. 

In this kind of format any bomb rare is going to be very good as you’ll have time to draw it and the removal is generally pretty weak so it’ll be difficult to deal with.  I did try out a very fast RG deck from one of my sealed pools featuring cheap soul bound creatures and a Burn at the Stake which seemed quite reasonable.  Cards like Stonewright, Lightning Mauler and Trusted Forcemage let to some pretty fast starts that were able to really put the pressure on so hopefully there’s some hope in draft for that kind of strategy to work.


The Stand outs

On to the notables!

Abundant Growth">Abundant Growth – always a good playable and makes splashing for your Black removal spell nice and easy.  Look out for 5c green decks in draft, with this and Borderland Ranger both in the set at common, and Vessel of Endless Rest at uncommon it shouldnt be hard to pick up 3-5 fixers and then just draft all the best cards.

Amass the Components">Amass the Components – card draw spells are usually pretty good in limited and this kind of draw and selection at the same time is very good.  I managed a splash for a Death Wind off just a Borderland Ranger and a Swamp in my first sealed pool because I knew I could always discard the Wind to this if i couldnt cast it.

Angelic Armaments">Angelic Armaments – this and most of the good common and uncommon equipment are very playable in this format.  Its slow enough that you have time to suit up your men without dying and in a long game of attrition having something that reusably makes your guys slightly better is a massive bonus.

Barter in Blood">Barter in Blood – a very powerful card that takes a little bit of work to use to full effect.  Obviously very good with Undying Creatures and “whenever a creature dies,” triggers but also really useful to set up the black loner mechanic if you’re going down the route.

Bladed Bracers">Bladed Bracers – another good common equipment that’s worth playing.  This and Spectral Gateguards both at common mean that vigilance is going to be a pretty common abiltiy which again helps slow the format down.

Blessings of Nature">Blessings of Nature – this card is very very good, I dont think I saw a single person lose the game after casting this, miracle or full price.  The removal is all pretty weak and if you can split the tokens 2-2 or 1-1-2 then their removal spell is only going to deal with a potion of the card.

Blood Artist">Blood Artist – A very powerful ability as we saw with Falkenwrath Noble in Innistrad but with a much smaller body.  That said he does come down early and let you start getting value out of your trade which is nice.  Combo’s well with Soulcage Demon to threaten to drain them out and also buffer you from the life loss.  Also combos well with black’s sacrifice theme in Bone Splinters, Barter in Blood and Bloodflow Connoisseur.

Borderland Ranger">Borderland Ranger – always a nice limited card.  Straight 2-1 card advantage, mana fixing and a relavent body is great.  Plus you can Cloudshift him for a second land if you want, not the most exciting but worth bearing in mind.

Bower Passage">Bower Passage – not a great card and not one I’d ever want to main deck.  Somone pointed out though that it stops their flyers blocking yours which is an interesting enough interaction for your UG or WG mirrors i think that it’ll see some play.

Cathedral Sanctifier">Cathedral Sanctifier – not a fan of this guy normally as a 1/1 and 3 life isnt really worth a card but once you have enough Emancipation Angels or Havengul Skaabs he becomes a lot more appealing.  Probably overkill if you have any good lifegain like Nearheath Stalker or Seraph of the Dawn but worth bearing in mind for when you do want a 1/1 for 1 with a reusable ability.

Corpse Traders">Corpse Traders – again plays very well into blacks sacrific theme and undying/Blood Artist.  Taking their big flying guys out their hand before they can cast them is a real possibility and a 3/3 for 4 is above the curve for a limited monster.

Crippling Chill">Crippling Chill – this card really impressed me.  I had two in my first sealed deck and they played excellently – dealing with both blockers and attackers and drawing cards is a very powerful ability in any limited format.

Demonic Taskmaster">Demonic Taskmaster – I’m not a huge fan yet, but i can definitely see the potential.  Given blacks sacrifice theme he could be a good beater while giving you value from guys you want to die or just a solo beatdown man that starts hitting them hard and fast.

Eaten by Spiders">Eaten by Spiders – almost always a maindeck card in this sealed format I think since U and W are very strong and a lot of their creatures are large and flying.  If you can get equipment with it too then that’s great value and definiely worth sideboarding in against Angelic Armaments.  Possibly not maindeck in draft though as RG RB and BG dont have many targets but it might be that U and W are powerful enough that they’ll get played most in draft anyway.

Elgaud Shieldmate">Elgaud Shieldmate – this card is really good and in my opinion a mistake to be printed at common.  Hexproof is a powerful abillity and getting it for basically free on whatever you want is very good.  Latch Seeker was a common pairing for this which is demoralsing and very difficult to deal with and it also makes your equipment and Call to Serve better when you know they cant remove your guy in responce.  Another card that really slows the format down.

Geist Snatch">Geist Snatch – a very worthy main deck card in a slow format like this, especially with blue having quite a few playable instants so they wont always know what you’ve left your mana up for.  Worth bearing in mind and not playing your best guy into them when they leave 2UU open and have a few cards in hand.

Grave Exchange">Grave Exchange – i’m really not a huge fan of this card, although it’s a 2-1 it’s pretty expensive and most people have something small and unimportant left lying around by 6 mana.  Does get a lot better if you have a bomb creature that you want to return or a lot of removal so you can control what they’re going to sacrifice.

Haunted Guardian">Haunted Guardian – not a very good maindeck card in my opinion, the format has a lot of flyers which he does nothing against and there just isnt enough good ground monsters to make him worthwhile.

Homicidal Seclusion">Homicidal Seclusion – a very powerful card if you can make it work and the format is slow enough that you might be able to just get there by making a guy on t3 or 4 and then this on t5.  very hard to deal with then as each time they kill your creature you can just reload with another.  Defang is awkward but with black having lots of sacrifice like Bone Splinters and Barter you should be able to get rid of your excess or defanged man when you need to.

Howlgeist">Howlgeist – evasion is very good in this format, especially non flying evasion and this guy is no exception.  Undying is very nice too since they have to deal with him twice and if you have anything that can pump his power then he soon becomes a real bomb.

Human Frailty">Human Frailty – definitely a main deck card in a format with so many humans.  Even black has a few so I can’t ever see myself leaving this on the bench when I’m playing black.

Into the Void">Into the Void – bouncing two creatures is a ton of tempo and if you have any sort of board presence by t4 bouncing their first two guys can be huge.  much better in an aggressive deck than a control one.

Lair Delve">Lair Delve – I really hate this card – at best you’re getting a 2-1 but if you ever hit a spell then you’ve just spent so much mana doing basically nothing.  Heaven forbid you hit 2 spells and actually do nothing!  Also in my green decks I want to be making creatures and attacking not drawing cards so i cant really see myself ever playing this.

Malicious Intent">Malicious Intent – I have a feeling this could be a sleeper in the set.  In an agressive red deck with lots of Stonewrights you wont always want to attack with your 1/1 guy as you want to keep the other guy soulbound so this gives you a good way to make him useful.  Might be too much card disadvantage when they remove him but something i’m going to try out.

Mist Raven">Mist Raven – a very strong card and another reason why the format is so slow.  Bouncing their best threat while developing your board with an evasion man is always very good and upgrading your Cloudshifts to unsummons is nice.

Nettle Swine">Nettle Swine – I’m a big fan of the pig, having 4 power is huge in a format with Angelic Wall and Seraph of Dawn and he hits pretty hard.

Nightshade Peddler">Nightshade Peddler – this is another small body that gives might want to pick up a Malicious Intent, although the combination of deathtouch and can’t block might not be the most synergistic.  Really nice with the reach soulbond man to stop any sort of flying assault.

Seraph of Dawn">Seraph of Dawn – probably the best common, this guy just does it all.  2/4 flying for 4 is a great body and the lifelink just means you win most races.  Hopefully not format defining enough to remove Black and Red aggressive decks from being playable but it just might be.  In my opinion this card alone make Thunderbolt better than Pillar of Flame although that could be wrong.

Stern Mentor">Stern Mentor – this guy is very good in this format in my opinion.  It’s slow enough that decking them is a real option and he combines very well with the Hexproof soulbond guy and the Galvanic Alchemist untap soulbond guy.  Pretty sure i’m going to be first picking this guy in draft a fair bit, although whether that makes Rotcrown Ghoul and Dreadwaters playable or not remains to be seen.

Stonewright">Stonewright – I’ve already mentioned this guy and he seems like he could be a key player in the aggressive R decks.  Pair with the deathtouch or first strike soul bond guy for some really awkward fast creatures.

Triumph of Ferocity">Triumph of Ferocity – very easy to keep triggering this in Green decks as the creatures are very big and once you’ve drawn a few cards you should have gas to keep drawing more.  Sadly it’s discard counterpart is nowhere near as good as discarding is inherintly weaker than drawing (since they might have an empty hand) and blacks creatures are much smaller.

Trusted Forcemage">Trusted Forcemage – very good green common and much more than the grey ogre it looks like at first glance.  3/3’s for 3 have always been ahead of the curve and this one makes another creature bigger too – sometimes with haste!

Unhallowed Pact">Unhallowed Pact – not a great card generally but if you have a huge bomb to protect or a lot of removal then it’s playable.  Note you can put it on their guy and then kill it to steal it to your control but it’s quite an expencive trick.

Vigilante Justice">Vigilante Justice – not that great on its own as most creatures are quite large so you have to start making 2-3 guys in a turn to kill one.  that said there’s a common that makes 3 red humans and a creature that gives attacking humans +1/+0 which combine quite nicely.  Also the white uncommon Goldnight Commander gives your tokens (and all your other creatures) +3/+3 with Thatcher Revolt which is a lot of damage.


Final Thoughts

So that’s my quick rundown of interesting commons and uncommons from the new set – I’m looking forward to trying out a few draft strategies, like RW humans and UG soulbond, that dont really seem to come up in sealed that much and hopefully this’ll develop into an awesome format like Innistrad and Dark Ascention before it.

Good luck with the new set and may you always topdeck your miracles!

Tom Harle



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