MTG Set Review: Avacyn Restored

(Frank here, with a little introduction. This post is entirely related to the card game Magic: The Gathering. If you greek pedigree is like my own, you know the game. If you don't know the game, or are not interested in the game, this post may not be for you. Also of note, this one is crazy long. Lots of information to digest, from one of the best Magic players I know. So, with that in mind...let me turn this over to O'Neill.)

I'd like to start out by introducing myself; but who among you really cares? I'm going by O'Neill on here, which is obviously a fake name, so anything else I tell you about myself can't really be trusted. So let's just pretend for the sake of what I hope will be a great blogger-reader relationship that I posted some stuff about my life that you connected to, and let's move on to what we both really care about:

Avacyn Restored.

I'm not going to waste your time (or my own for that matter) going over each and every card. Instead, I'm going to focus on that cards that I either deem particularly good, or particularly interesting. Let's start with my overall feeling about the set. First off, it's drooling with flavor. Avacyn is back, freed from her self-imposed prison inside the Hellvault, and now the evils of Innistrad are running for the hills; and the cards tell this story quite well. This set is a Commander players dream. Hot off the press we have five new Legendary creatures to broaden our horizons for Generals, and a host of Miracles to give us the same effects of cards we're already using and potentially for cheaper.


Avacyn, Angel of Hope - Let's begin with the bitch herself. An 8/8 Flying, Vigilance for 8 mana is already a decent card. Make her indestructible and you have a brick house. But (like so many cheesy infomercials) wait, there's more! Not only is she indestructible, but she also protects all your other permanents as well. She's a beast for Reanimator style decks, she epitomizes what it means to be a General in Commander, she's a bombshell of a Limited pick that's easily windmill-slammable, and she looks great while doing it. Cards Like Avacyn are why the Mythic rarity was created, and she truly fits the bill.

Banishing Stroke - Miraculous. Tucking your opponent's most annoying artifact, creature, or enchantment safely away on the bottom of their library for a single white mana is nothing short of miraculous. Unfortunately, if it's not played for it's Miracle cost, you're paying way too much. 5W is a hefty price to pay for just one target. At that price you'd expect to be able to wipe the board. Also, Miracle eliminates the surprise factor of Instant-speed spot removal and forces you to play it right then. I still like the card for Commander, where I think the threat density is so high that you will have a solid target for it 90% of the time and have the ability to take someone's General out of the equation like so few cards can.

Cloudshift - Where have you been all my life? I love Flicker-type effects, and this is now the best in the business. Save your creature from targeted removal, get another use of an "enters (or leaves) the battlefield" ability, untap a tapped creature so it can surprise block; these types of cards are so versatile. Solid common.

Entreat the Angels - The thing I like most about this card is that it's pretty fair at its normal casting cost, and completely busted for it's Miracle cost. Ignoring the possibility of a miraculous topdeck, it scales like this: 5 mana for a single 4/4 flier, 7:2, 9:3, etc. That's actually not that bad. The triple white is limiting, for sure, but not wholly prohibitive. Miracle scales ridiculously like so: 3 mana for a solitary angel, 4:2, 5:3, 6:4, etc. And only two of it has to be white. This card is easily first pick-able in Draft (although it commits you heavily to white) and fits nicely into any Commander deck that can support a couple of white mana.

Nearheath Pilgrim - I like this guy for what he isn't: complicated. At worst he's a 2/1 for 1W, which is playable in Limited a good bit of the time. But he's at his best when paired with a better creature, preferably one with some form of evasion, who puts his Lifelink-giving abilities to better use than he can. Perfect implementation of Soulbond.

Silverblade Paladin - Not quite as good as his Mirran cousin, but what he lacks in inherent value he makes up for in versatility. He won't always have Double strike, but when he does he can also give it to your bigger guys as well.

Terminus - Hello, Commander! Here is one Miracle that won't always be cast for it's Miracle cost (which is insanely good by the way). Hallowed Burial is a staple white sweeper in the Commander format, and Terminus will go right alongside it. Most Commander decks like having access to their General, and cards like these take away that comfort. It is also a way to deal with pesky Indestructible creatures like Avacyn as well.


Devastation Tide - It's Evacuation that trades away instant speed for the ability to effect all nonland permanents instead of just creatures and a Miracle cost. Who wouldn't want that?

Ghostform - This card is absolutely nuts! And it's a Common! Unblockable creatures are hard to come by, and most spells that grant it are only single target, but not this one. I'll take these all day in Draft.

Ghostly Flicker - see Cloudshift.

Gryff Vanguard - Aside from the awkwardness of a creature with this name being a Human, this is one of my favorite cards for Limited in this set. A common 3/2 flier that draws a card when he enters the battlefield is already good. But in a set chalk full of flickering spells and abilities that can abuse his ability, he's golden.

Latch Seeker - This is the guy I'm looking for to pair with my Soulbond creatures. Giving this guy Double strike, pumping his power, or allowing you to draw cards every time he connects seems really good.

Nephalia Smuggler - All of the versatility of flicker spells on a repeatable stick. 

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage - Her ultimate basically hands you the game by letting you cast your spells over and over again, but she's so much more than just that. Her +1 keeps the biggest threat locked down indefinitely, or opens the door for your creatures to get through. Her -2 restocks your hand if you play her after being hit by a number of creatures or, better yet, after you attack with your own army of smaller creatures. Tamiyo begs to be included in a W/U evasive weenie deck where she can lock down opposing big creatures and refill your hand when it gets low.

Tandem Lookout - Pairs well with an evasive creature (see Latch Seeker) to bury your opponent in card advantage.

Temporal Mastery - This card is really good. I mean REALLY good. Provided it's not in your opening hand or drawn on the first turn (and you should be playing cards that let you fix this even if it is) you'll always be getting value out of it. It's an extra land drop and card draw early, or late it's an extra turn to swing for the win, or a turn to swing without having to leave blockers up. You'll almost always be casting it for it's Miracle cost, but it's not like being forced to is going to set you back a turn now is it?


Appetite for Brains - The obvious comparisons come to mind of Duress, Thoughtseize, and Inquisition of Kozilek. Unfortunately, this card pales in comparison to it's older cousins. In any format where you'd want to hit something with converted mana cost 4 or greater (read Commander), a one-for-one trade just isn't good enough.

Dark Imposter - A windmill slam waiting to happen. I'm not a huge fan of Drafting black in this set, but this guy would definitely push me that way. The ability to exile an opponent's creature at will for him to get bigger is just too good to pass on. 

Demonlord of Ashmouth - This card is the perfect representation of black's philosophy. Extremely powerful, undercosted creature balanced by a downside. The trick to playing him effectively is turning a potentially cumbersome downside into a benefit. By playing other small Undying creatures or creatures that do something when they die, you turn his negative into a positive.

Griselbrand - Mono Black Control just got a new General! Swing with him to gain the life used to fuel his ability and restock your hand. It doesn't even matter if he gets chump blocked. This guy is just so amazing in the Commander format, General or not. Aside from that though, he's also amazing in Limited as well. This set is really light on good removal it seems, so your big creatures are able to do a whole lot more for you.

Killing Wave -  Didn't I just mention a lack of good removal in this set? This card has so much potential, and I want to like it so much, but I just can't seem to take the plunge and fall in love with it. Any time you are leaving the decision about what your card does to your opponent, you are never going to get your desired effect. What this card can do, is reliably clear away the little dink creatures that bog up the battlefield and leave around the big guns worth paying the life for. So, in a creature-light deck that still relies on a big finisher, this card may actually shine. I remain skeptical. 

Unhallowed Pact - This enchantment can either steal an opponent's creature or bring one of your own back. The fact that it has to be played proactively is a hindrance, but it may actually make your opponent pause when considering attacking you with a creature with this on it.


Bonfire of the Damned  - The ability to hit a player and all of his creatures is what makes this card good. But, being limited to only really being viable off of Miracle really hurts it. I like the risk vs reward scenario it brings, as the potential upside of the card is so huge.

Dual Casting - Reverberate option on every spell you cast for an extra red mana and tapping the creature is hugely powerful. Not to mention insanely fun.

Havengul Vampire - Red has a subtheme of Vampire creatures that get bigger when they hit your opponent, and this guy is one of the better ones. Getting bigger everytime a creature dies allows you to get some extra value out of your smaller creatures as you can attack and either go unblocked or make him bigger. Red is very aggressive in this Limited environment and guys like this at Uncommon give you that extra punch at higher mana costs.

Heirs of Stromkirk - Another 4 cmc blood sucker. This guy gives up Havengul's other creature clause for Intimidate and a rarity drop to Common. Aggressive red Draft strategies (read almost all red strategies) should be looking at grabbing this guy pretty high up. His evasion is extremely relevant as there are only two artifact creatures, and he just keeps growing.

Hound of Griselbrand - Not the most amazing Rare in the world, but you get good value out of it.   After doing his thing as a 2/2 Double striker he comes back with a vengeance as a 3/3. 

Pillar of Flame - Sorcery Shock with an exile clause. Losing instant speed is a big notch against it, but it's a fair trade to be able to deny your opponent their Undying trigger or other graveyard manipulation. In a set light on decent spot removal, this really shines. Don't expect this to be going around the Draft table for too long.

Thunderous Wrath - Without Miracle it's comparable to Lava Axe . Unfortunately, Lava Axe isn't very good. So we're looking at only ever casting it for it's Miracle cost, which most decks will happily do; if there's no creature around that warrants the burn, one fourth of your opponent's life for a single red mana seems like a bargain. Aside from being a top pick in Draft, I can see this card actually seeing play in Legacy Burn decks.

Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded - Our first two-drop walker. His first ability can't help protect him, which is a BIG strike against him. Drawing a card and discarding a card at random doesn't help keep him around for very long, and seems like a waste of two red mana and a card. Sudden Impact as a second ability seems woefully underpowered seeing as how he takes two full turns to power up into it. If your opponent has enough cards in hand for it to do a solid amount of damage, then they likely have a answer for him before he can get there. His ultimate is pretty good, allowing for an alpha strike that includes your opponent's creatures as well. I just don't see him ever getting to it. He's a semi-decent turn two play against a slower control deck, but that's a pretty narrow window of usefulness.

Zealous Conscripts - Act of Treason with a 3/3 Hasted body seems pretty good. I think the best part about it is the splashability factor it brings by only requiring one red to cast. High value for Limited.


Bower Passage - This card is unique. In a set with so many fliers, this card's value as a sideboard card for Limited really elevates. On the surface it allows for your G/X aggro guys to weasel past opposing fliers and head straight to your opponent’s dome. But imagine if you had your own fliers. With this down they're almost (curse you Reach) unblockable! Still only a sideboard card, but a solid late pick in Draft.

Champion of Lambholt - Green has a number of creatures that can’t be blocked by creatures with power smaller than their own, and this is their Lord. He fits perfectly into a hyper aggressive deck filled with droves of little guys.

CraterhoofBehemoth - Overrun-ish on a Hastey beatstick is really good. In a G/W or G/U deck he’s really abusable with flickering effects.

Druid’s Familiar - One of three +X/+X Soulbonders in the set. Overcosted by their lonesome yet undercosted when paired, they make great additions to any deck that likes to turn creatures sideways. They shine particularly well when combo’d with evasive creatures like fliers or unblockables (read blue). A few of these guys with Wingcrafters or Latch Seekers can really tear someone up.

Nightshade Peddler - Green is known for having lots of little guys or a couple big guys with Trample, and this guy helps both strategies. Little guys with Deathtouch make great blockers and are a nice deterrent for opposing attackers, and Tramplers with Deathtouch need only assign a single point of damage to blocking creatures before continuing on to the dome. This guy is extremely versatile and a solid value for a 1G Common.

Rain of Thorns - I think this card is an interesting choice for Commander, where it should reliably be able to hit all three targets. It’s not amazing, but it is interesting.

Sheltering Word - Basically reads “Counter target spell or ability an opponent controls that targets a creature you control.” Green generally likes their creatures, so having a way to protect them from incoming spells is pretty valuable. The lifegain is just gravy.

Terrifying Presence - Best. Fog. Ever. Seriously good Common. Allows you to control combat for a turn and really turn around a negative board position or press a positive one even further.

Trusted Forcemage - see Druid’s Familiar.

Wolfir Silverheart - see Druid’s Familiar.


Bruna,Light of Alabaster - This lady makes an excellent General for a new Commander deck. White and blue have some of the best auras and the tutors to find them. Particularly useful enchantments to pair with her are ones that give Hexproof or Shroud. Normally Shroud is a problem when trying to enchant your own creatures, but the way her ability works, it gets around it. The great thing about her is that if she dies, all of the auras she had come right back next time she attacks or blocks. Aside from being an amazing (if pigeon-holed) General, she also makes a great finisher in Limited.

Gisela,Blade of Goldnight - Holy 4:1 damage swing Batman! Getting to 7 mana in Limited is doable, and she’s obviously a bomb there, but her true potential is in Commander. Whether as a General herself or in a support role (say in a Kaalia of the Vast deck) she can really swing the game your way. Don’t forget that she doubles all damage done to your opponents, not just damage you deal. As a sidenote she has a very interesting interaction with Pyrohemia as she turns each red mana into a Pyroclasm that hits players too and leaves you and your guys unharmed.

Sigarda,Host of Herons - Five mana for a 5/5 Hexproof flier is really stinking good. Her protection against sac effects is actually somewhat relevant in this set as well.


Conjurer’s Closet - Have I mentioned before that I like flickering my stuff? Doing it every turn for free is so incredibly good in the right deck. The important thing to keep in mind here is that it is a “may” effect, so I don’t have to if, for some reason, I don’t want to.

Moonsilver Spear - A free 4/4 flier every turn is insanely good. And it gives you something to swing with on the following turn if your creature meets an untimely end.

Tormentor’s Trident - Evasive creatures love power boosts, and this certainly fits the bill. It’s not so great outside of Limited, but equipped to a Latch Seeker or flier it can put a hurting on someone pretty quick.

Vessel of the Endless Rest - Manalith and Darksteel Ingot are Commander staples, and this just gives you another mana rock to choose from.


Alchemist’s Refuge - The ability to Flash in guys whenever you want is no joke; especially when those guys are Soulbonders. Instant speed creature pump or Hexproof seems pretty good, and you get the bodies to go with them. Let’s not forget that this card lets us Flash in any nonland permanent, not just creatures.

Cavern of Souls - Perfect land for any and all tribal style decks no matter what format. I see this making a big splash all over the place.

Slayers’ Stronghold - Offensive and defensive in the same ability fits perfectly into any R/W deck. Gets more bang out of late game weenies, and keeps your bombshell creatures attacking and blocking.

All in all I think Avacyn Reborn is a decent set. I’m not a Standard player, so I can’t evaluate what it’ll bring to that format, but it brings a number of awesome new cards for Commander and should even reach Modern and Legacy in a small way too. The Limited environment really intrigues me as I see Soulbond encouraging high creature density in decks. Crafting a smooth creature curve will be of paramount importance to winning at AVR Draft tables.

What can the powers of Heaven and Hell bring to your decks?

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