Avacyn Restored MTG Set Review – Red by Grant Hislop

UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop


This is part 4 of my Avacyn Restored set review. Congratulations for making it this far.

We’ve previously covered White, Blue and Black cards, and two thirds of them have been awesome. Black seems to have been really missing some oomph, as outside of Griselbrand, it’s difficult to picture many reasons to use the cards. Fortunately, White and Blue more than pulled their weight.



Red Avacyn Restored Cards

Onwards to the red cards.


This is obviously going to cause some aggravation in a world of Lingering Souls, but as I alluded to a couple articles back, I’m of the opinion that Lingering Souls wars will be a thing of the past in the immediate future. Plus, if we’re being serious, this doesn’t stack up particularly well against the other sweeper effects that red has, such as Whipflare and Slagstorm.

Limited wise, we’re looking at something ridiculously good. You can force your opponent to attack poorly, and set yourself up for the kill on the swing back. I can’t imagine many red decks that aren’t going to want this.

Archwing Dragon

When I was a nipper, I used to enjoy Viashino Sandstalker. In terms of the overarching concept of a red deck, we’re looking at a similar effect. Whether or not this is played will depend on how the format evolves. Basically, when you’re looking at this, Hellrider or Hero of Oxid Ridge, you’re looking at three vaguely similar cards, but each of them have their own weaknesses to prey on. I don’t think this is better than either of those two cards, to be honest, but once Hero rotates, we might see the Dragon’s day in the sun.

In 40-card formats, we’re looking at an interesting card. The fact that you keep having to invest your turns remaking it is unusual, but it’s cheap enough for the aggressive decks to want to use, and the slower decks will enjoy having a creature that dodges everything bar instant speed removal to close the game out.

Banners Raised

Rally the Peasants really raised the bar on effects like this, and it just seems like such a pale imitation. I can’t see this being much use outside of the fringest of strategies. We’ve not seen too much in the way of token generation yet, which is where these types of effects would shine.

While Intangible Virtue’s banning in block constructed has shown us that permanent creature pumps can be powerful, I can’t see this one getting banned any time soon.

Battle Hymn

I can’t think of any combo decks that would want this, as they generally don’t use creatures as part of the set-up. Unless there’s some massive red creature that I’m forgetting that Frites might actually want to cast, I can’t see it making waves. Someone might utilise it, and if they find a home for it, I’ll take my hat off to hymn or her.

In limited, it’s tough to picture a deck that can make use of this. There are a lot of expensive guys, but the inconsistency of rituals in general will likely see this remaining on the sidelines in the vast majority of decks.

Bonfire of the Damned

People have been splashing for Fireball since Magic’s inception, when we were all wearing loincloths and sitting round bonfires, and this one isn’t going to be any different. It’s really good when you’re paying full retail, and absolutely disgusting when you miracle it.

It’d be a damning indictment of your card evaluation skills if you ever pass this in draft, as it’s probably the best limited card in the set.

Burn at the Stake

In constructed, the stakes are a bit too high to justify including this. Red decks aren’t really using too many creatures at the same time to justify running what will essentially amount to a 5 mana Incinerate for the most part.

In limited, however, we’re looking at what is essentially Overrun for Red. That’s a damn sweet place to be, and it’s difficult to see people losing games when they cast this. It’ll fit in aggressive decks, and the slower decks might want to make use of it to kill some big, dumb creature that they need to deal with.

Dangerous Wager

I’d be happy to wager that this will see play in older formats, but my knowledge of Legacy and Vintage is sketchy, so following my recommendations may be dangerous. In decks that want to dump their hand, presumably using Lions Eye Diamond, ala Dredge, this is an excellent card, as well combining both enabler and draw effect. Doubt it’ll replace Breakthrough, but it’s probably closer than I think it is. In newer formats, there’s Past in Flames to consider, and there’s probably a deck that’s crying out for this; be it Pyromancer Ascension based or not. Is it better than Ideas Unbound for this type of thing?

In limited, the aggressive red decks will want to cast this when they’ve curved out, to get more gas, so it should see marginal play. Obviously not something that every deck wants, but it’ll be really good in the decks that want it.


As I said in the last part, I was hoping for some good land destruction in this set, something comparable to Stone Rain or Goblin Ruinblaster, to combat Cavern of Souls, but this is what we’ve got instead. At the risk of going off on a bit of a tangent, I think that the printing of Cavern of Souls is a pretty big mistake for the health of the format while Primeval Titan is kicking around. While Prime Time is still legal, which is the next 6 months, we’re going to be looking at heaps of Wolf Run decks, and tribal decks which isn’t fun. Saying that things like Mana Leak aren’t good for the health of the format doesn’t make much sense to me, and if, as Zac Hill alludes to in his preview article on the mothership, they’re printing Cavern to attempt to rectify a mistake that they made with Snapcaster Mage, I understand the logic behind printing Cavern of Souls.

Where that logic breaks down is that by adding the ‘Can’t be countered’ clause, you’re not only pushing Control out, which wasn’t exactly dominating anyway, you’re essentially pushing what was already a fringe-strategy into completely useless territory, which serves only to strengthen strategies which were only kept in check by the existence of a spell like Mana Leak keeping everyone honest.

Without Counterspells to keep the Primeval Titan decks in check, all you’ve done is strengthen another un-fun, uninteractive deck to play against. Sure, UW Delver might be the target, but the splash damage to the format as a whole seems like a very real concern. With the format essentially looking like Control>Ramp>Aggro>Control, to break it down to its simplest form, we’re removing the reasons to play anything other than Ramp, and various flavours thereof. Sure, some control mirrors are really gruesome to play, but I’d far rather play them than any variation of Ramp vs Ramp.

The tools are probably there, to stop the format becoming so inbred, but so often, you kill the Primeval Titan, but the fact that Kessig Wolf-Run makes every Bird of Paradise into a must-kill threat, and Inkmoth Nexus takes half the effort to do the same, plus, having to be able to keep pace with the aggressive decks means that it’s not just as simple for control decks as adding 4 Ghost Quarters, as quite frankly, they can’t afford the loss of tempo to use it that often.

Anyway, Demolish is bad, and if the format is dull enough that it’s necessary, I will be very sad.

Dual Casting

I can’t envisage myself winning too many duels casting this. It’s too often that you’ll get yourself 2-for-1’d to want to run this, and the danger is very real in limited as well. We’ve got Chandra, the Firebrand to play with in constructed, and I don’t think I’ve ever see her in play in a serious setting, so my hopes aren’t particularly high that this is going to take off.

Falkenrath Exterminator

I think we should all agree that this isn’t going to be exterminating anything in constructed, but in 40-card decks, it’s going to be quite powerful. It’s cheap enough that it can feasibly get a hit or two without any help, but once you get that second hit in, it’s going to make combat impossible for your opponent. This is an easy early pick, and there aren’t that many rares that I’d take over this P1P1.

Fervent Cathar

I’m a fervent admirer of creature based Falter effects in limited, and this is no different. Combines really well with the previous card on the list in 40-card land, and is probably on the cusp of constructed playability, though I’d expect that to be in conjunction with Birthing Pod, rather than a more traditional Red Deck Wins strategy.

Gang of Devils

I won’t be the leader of any gang that chooses this over an Inferno Titan, which is what we’re competing with at the 6 slot. Arc Lightning is a powerful card in its own right, and attaching it to creatures seems like a winner, but the ‘Dies’ trigger is going to be enough of a setback to keep this firmly relegated to a curve topper in slower draft decks. I can easily see Sealed decks wanting to splash for him though.

Guise of Fire

In what guise would this be playable? When Gut Shot and Shock are instants, why would you want an Enchantment that does effectively the same thing? If we’re interested in returning permanent based removal to abuse with Sun Titan, Dead Weight is a better proposition.

In limited, at least it can force creatures to attack unprofitably, as well as picking off the smaller utility creatures, at least giving it some semblance of usefulness, but I’m not expecting great things from this.

Hanweir Lancer

We can all agree that Grey Ogres with mariginal abilities are too Han-fair for serious constructed consideration, but he’s going to be awesome in limited. Soulbond is a really powerful mechanic, and the fact that he’s going to swing for a few turns, then give First Strike to something big as well in the latter stages of a game. He’s a relevant body, and he’s definitely powerful enough to be in ‘best red common in the set’ type discussions.

Havengul Vampire

If you’re playing this in constructed, you’re Haven a laugh if you’re expecting to win. There are far better versions of the Slith mechanic that you’d use before you even considered this guy. He’s far too expensive, when compared to things like Stromkirk Noble and Captains, and even Rakish Heir pumps your whole team.

In limited, he’ll end up growing and growing, and while it’s not able to protect itself particularly well, it’s not like there’s really a lot of removal floating around, so he should be able to take over a game without too much difficulty. I’d expect to be able to pick these up 5-8th pick with something approaching regularity, as it’s solid, but pretty unspectacular.

Heirs of Stromkirk

The evasion makes these guys better than the last Vampire we looked at by a heirs-breath. It’s not going to grow as much over the course of a typical game, but it’ll end up doing far more damage in the long run. I see this being quite a realistic curve-topper in the aggressive decks, and the control decks probably want more bang for their buck. Constructed wise, we’re competing with Hellrider and Hero of Oxid Ridge, and that’s not a conversation that ends favourably for the Heirs of Stromkirk.

Hound of Griselbrand

I’ve probably made enough bad jokes during the previous couple of articles that I’m in danger of being hounded out of the Magic community. I’ll try and tone it down going forwards.

See what I said above re: being Red, and costing 4. The ability’s pretty cool, and it sure can get big, but I can’t see people wanting this over any of the existing options that they have available, which is a shame.

In limited, he’s almost impossible to interact with favourably, and the undying means that you’re going to be running rough-shod over your opponent as soon as this makes an appearance. It’s not like many decks can afford to take 4 every turn and just ignore it, so he’s going to be eating utility creatures from the get-go.

Kessig Malcontents

In block, Boros Humans is one of the best decks. This will sit nicely on the curve with Champion of the Parish, Gather the Townsfolk and co. There’s utility lands that have appeared, and the strategy seems very powerful. I can definitely see this slotting into that deck, and there’s possibilities that it could trickle into Standard. Obviously, you’re not going to be content dealing 1-2 damage, but if you build your deck heavily based around humans, he’s going to be well worth the effort.

In limited, we’re going to be attempting to do something similar. Acting as a quasi-burn spell in the late game, stalled board states is pretty good, and its stats are good enough that it’s not embarrassing to drop it on turn 3 either. It always deals at least one damage from the get-go, which is fine, but in more human-centric strategies, it can easily be much, much more. Definite 1-3 pick quality card.

Kruin Striker

What I said above strikes me as also being true for this guy. Curving Champion into this into Gather the Townsfolk has you hitting for a lot. Sure she’s got a pretty small backside, but people won’t really want to block her early, as trample is pretty sweet, as ‘evasion’ goes.

In limited, it can be far easier to run out of gas, so nothing bar the most balls to the wall aggressive decks will want this effect. It’s powerful, but you really need something ala Thraben Doomsayer, or Bloodline Keeper to keep her fuelled and turning sideways.

Lightning Mauler

I don’t see this being the Lightning Baller that the red deck wants. It only has haste on turn 2 if you use the Soulbond on a 1-drop that’s already able to attack, which isn’t great. If you’re waiting til turn 3, to cast this and a 1-drop, you’re not using your turns particularly well, which is pretty much the cardinal sin of Red Deck Wins.

In limited land, you’re able to ignore the ability early, and threaten a huge, flying monster or the like, and make your opponents early game recovery that much more difficult. You’ll maybe get a few free wins from people failing to consider surprise haste correctly, and worst case scenario, it’s a Goblin Piker, which is obviously fine to play on his own.

Lightning Prowess

I’m going to channel all my card evaluation prowess, and call this constructed un-playable. It’s an aura, and it only makes your guy into a Prodigal Sorcerer. Not good enough for any serious discussions. The effect is far more powerful in 40-card land however, as pingers are frequently first-pick quality cards. The fact that this is an aura is still a pretty big strike against it, but the format has barely any removal as is, and there are plenty of X/1’s to go with the big, dumb monsters, so it’ll probably be quite good.

Mad Prophet

They’re really pushing looting hard into red, and while this is a powerful effect, I don’t see anyone who casts this being able to reap the Mad Profits. Haste is a big plus to this, but if, as many previous limited formats are an indicator, the fact that you’ve got to discard first (and it’s part of the cost) seems to be a big no-no.

At least its stats aren’t completely embarrassing, so worst case scenario, it’s a 2-power haster, which isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Malicious Intent

I hope you’ll not take this as me being overly malicious, but auras have to be far, far better than this to see play, especially if they’re enchanting your own creatures, and this one is just awful. The same is true for limited, though as above, they don’t need to be quite as good. This one is pretty weak, and however good your intent may be, too many things have to fall your way for this to work out, and those aren’t odds I’m interested in play to.


He shrinks as I get closer to killing my opponents? That seems awful. He costs 5 as well?! No thanks. Moving on.

Pillar of Flame

Its closest analogue is Magma Spray, but the question is whether being able to hit players is worth the trade-off of Sorcery speed. My initial reaction says ‘yes’, as we’re in a format where undying creatures are used in several pillars of Standard. Strangleroot Geist, Gravecrawler and Geralf’s Messenger all interact with the Graveyard, and all are worth interacting with, not even to consider some of the more fringe outliers like Chandra’s Phoenix etc.

This is definitely one of the best commons in the set, as it just does so much for such little cost. I’m a big fan.

Raging Poltergeist

Imagine using your turn, paying 5 mana for this guy, and then your opponent just pays 2 life, and Gut Shots it. Man, you’d be raging. Should go without saying that the only applications this has are in limited sideboards, presumably for marginal use against the stupid, green ground-pounders that presumably exist. Other than that, it shouldn’t be anywhere near your decks.

Reforge the Soul

I’m quite happy paying 5 for this, and paying full-cost is probably the bench-mark test for Miracle cards, so already, we’re onto a winner. The effect is really powerful. Wheel of Fortune is a pretty busted card as is, and being able to cast this for less than that is just nutty to me. I can’t see how this doesn’t fit straight into the Pyromancer Ascension decks in Modern, and will probably end up being a centrepiece in a Past in Flames combo deck in standard.

It’s not an effect that I want in limited, as the symmetry of the card seems difficult to break, and spending an entire turn to cast it seems like a recipe for disaster. Probably best to just stick to dedicated constructed decks.

Riot Ringleader

Some of the other Red human creatures run rings around this guy. If this was the type of ability I wanted, I’d run Hero of Oxid Ridge, and pay the extra mana. I don’t think the ability is strong enough to justify warping a limited deck around him, though obviously his stats are reasonable enough to warrant his inclusion, as Grey Ogres often are. I’d never be too unhappy cutting him, as it just seems like it’ll be too much work for such a marginal pay-off.

Rite of Ruin

This is pretty close to Wildfire. I can see a deck like Wolf Run Ramp wanting a copy or two of these in the board for the mirror. It’s obviously going to be difficult to cast without ramping. I think that it’s powerful enough to consider building around, but I’m not sure that I’m rite.

In limited, it’s essentially a Wrath of God, albeit an expensive one, but it looks like the format will be slow enough to justify paying 7 mana to reset the board. It’s probably a card that’ll I’ll need to play with to evaluate properly, but I’m pretty excited to have access to it.

Rush of Blood

I haven’t even bothered reading this card. It’s got the same name as something that Coldplay did, so I assume it’s shite as well. Anything associated with Coldplay is awful. If you like Coldplay, I hate you, and hope you die of hepa-gonnoh-syphil-aids.

Scalding Devil

If we’re playing the Grixis Heartless Summoning deck, do we want this, or Perilous Myr? One has value outside of the combo, and one just exists as a mana-sink. It’s not close.

In 40-card land, it’ll be pretty good. Having access to something to dump your mana into ensures good mana-economy, and as the game progresses, it’s going to demand an answer. The stats aren’t particularly exciting on their own, but I think that’s fine. It’s far more of a late-game card than its cost would suggest.

Somberwald Vigilante

There’s Stromkirk Noble and Vexing Devil ahead of this guy in RDW, and this is a considerably worse top-deck than either of those. I’d hope that you were vigilant enough to pass over this card entirely by now.

Limited (almost) unplayable. There’s not enough X/1’s to justify this.


If you play this is constructed, you’ll quickly end up stone-dead.

In 40-card formats, you’re going to want to pair this with a big, dumb guy, who preferably flies and hit your opponent until they stop moving. It’s fine, in that it can creep in for a point or two in the early game, then pair up with your late-game cards, to make them even more valuable. Certainly, he’s better than the previous card on the list.

Thatcher Revolt

I like Bob Dylan. I wish the flavour text could have been ‘Ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more’. Woulda been sweeeeet. I think the Thatchers are pretty revolting as a card though. No deck will want this, outside of the hyper-aggressive ones, and even then, it’s iffy.


I can’t see this pushing Incinerate out any time soon. It’s so contextual that it’s difficult to evaluate. How many 4 toughness fliers are there that I need to care about, and how good is a Lava Spike if my opponent doesn’t have any? It’s probably quite good, but I’m not sure HOW good it is.

Thunderous Wrath

This is my pick for best miracle card. It’s only really competing with Terminus, but it’s still so good. It’s quite close to Fireblast in terms of powerlevel, which is a really good baseline to be working to. 6 mana isn’t out of the realms of playability at retail, and the Miracle cost is insane value. I can easily see these making a splash in the older formats, where it’s easier to manipulate the top of the library, and could feasibly be a win condition. Canadain Threshold will presumably be trying out a couple of these.

In 40-card land, it kills just about everything that you can realistically expect to face, and 6-mana is a fine deal to do that. If you manage to rip it at an opportune moment, you’ll be laughing. So sweet.

Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded

He’s obviously the worst Planeswalker printed in terms of power-level, but he’s also the cheapest by miles. His abilities, if left unchecked will rule the late-game, and in some sort of deck that gets marginal additional value out of their graveyard, he’ll rule the roost. He’s akin to Liliana in that he’s good in general, but an absolute house against control. Imagine casting this on the play against a control deck. By the time they drop a Grave Titan, it’ll be too late.

He’s not as terrifying as most Planeswalkers in limited, but again, he’ll take over any games where he’s left alone, just like his larger brethren. I think he’s fine power-wise, and is a pretty good indicator that Wizards are willing to experiment a bit more with Planeswalkers in general.

Tyrant of Discord

You’re never going to play dis’card in constructed, I hope we can all agree.

In limited, he’s a big, dumb monster, which is fine, and has the potential to just eat your opponents board. I’m not the biggest fan of cards which don’t have the value locked-in. Sometimes he’ll win you the game, sometimes, he’ll be a really expensive Avalanche Riders, which is, I guess, fine. Seems like a card that will pull people out of situations that they’ve got no business coming back from.

I look forward to 3 months of ‘And then he cast Tyrant of Discord and my whole team disappeared’ bad beat stories, because god knows, I can’t get enough of them.

Uncanny Speed

It’s almost uncanny. We get towards the end of the cards, alphabetically, and there’s a limited pump trick. We got it in white, and here it is in Red too. It’s nowhere near good enough for constructed, and only has marginal utility in limited. It’s interesting that it’s both an instant, and grants haste, as that seems somewhat counter-intuitive, though I guess having options is seldom a bad thing.

Vexing Devil

This card has been vexing me since I first saw it. It’s stats are obviously off the charts, but I really hate giving my opponent choices. Sure, when I cast this on T1, it’s going to be a Lava Spike +1, but as the game progresses, and my opponent stabilises, they’re becoming more and more able to interact with this properly. It’s possible that it’s better than I think it is, but I think it’s a little over-hyped, and I don’t see it warranting its current price-tag. Goblin Guide, it ain’t.

Vigilante Justice

If there were any justice, this wouldn’t have been printed. It doesn’t do anything by itself, and that’s an insurmountable obstacle for me to overlook.

Zealous Conscripts

On the other hand, I can’t understand why this is as cheap as it is. Threaten effects are often constructed worthy, and strapping a 3/3 haste body onto one seems like a reasonable deal for 5-mana. His applications in Birthing Pod alone make him worth consideration.

It’s quite difficult to imagine a limited game that doesn’t end almost immediately after this has been cast. Back in M11, BR Steal and Sac was an archetype, and while it’s obviously not being pushed as hard in this set, there are ways to build something similar.


Top 5 Cards I might play in Constructed

1. Bonfire of the Damned
2. Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
3. Thunderous Wrath
4. Pillar of Flame
5. Zealous Conscripts

Top 5 Commons

1. Pillar of Flame
2.  Hanweir Lancer
3. Heirs of Stromkirk
4. Scalding Devil
5. Dangerous Wager


So as always, what do you think? Please let me know below.

And stay classy mtgUK,




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