Monday, April 23, 2012

Avacyn Restored EDH Set Reveiw, Part One: White

Well, one of the most exciting spoiler seasons in recent memory is now ended, and the full Avacyn Restored set has been officially spoiled by Wizards of the Coast. The buzz among the EDH crowd is almost overwhelmingly positive, and many fans of the format agree that this is one awesome set.

I can't disagree. Wizards seems to have hit a solid balance of flavor, power and playability. Other than the flagship cards, Avacyn and Griselbrand, nothing really seems to be quite as bonkers as Primeval Titan or Consecrated Sphinx. The two-colored Legendary Angels seem like they're really pushing the power-level envelope, but they're also much more niche-specific than something like Consecrated Sphinx.

More importantly, the vast majority of rares and mythics in Avacyn Restored seem unlikely to be major crossover hits. Cards like Primeval Titan that have such a huge impact that they are widely sought after by Standard and Modern players as well as EDH players means there are competing demographics, which drives the prices of those cards sky high. It was better back in the day when EDH staples tended to be virtually unplayable in tournament formats, and most high-dollar tournament staples were usually underwhelming in EDH. This meant EDH players got to raid the bargain bins and dollar binders for most of their cards, while leaving the big money rares to the tournament crowd.

A recent and disturbing trend has been the blurring of the line between EDH staples and Tournament staples. The aformentioned Titans, Sphinxes and stuff like Snapcaster Mage have been huge hits in both casual and competative formats, and this widespread appeal has very clearly cause prices to escalate.

It's a bit early to tell for certain, but it really looks to me like Avacyn Restored is a return to those good old days where the big tourney cards are stuff like Vexing Devils, which is virtually terrible in EDH, while stuff like Craterhoof Behemoth will be very popular in EDH, but complete lack of competative interest will keep the price remarkably low. Craterhoof Behemoth is the perfect sort of Mythic for those of us on tighter budgets - it's extremely playable and appealing for EDH and casual formats, but very unlikely to make a splash among tournament players, so it's not likely to spike above $5.00 or so, if even that.

I'd very much like to see WotC continue along this path of trying to create cards that appeal to either one demographic or another, rather than making things like the Primeval Titans that are clearly MEANT to be EDH staples, but are so overwhelmingly powerful that they wind up being competative staples as well. Obviously, there will always be some overlap - Cavern of Souls, for instance, is one such card that is likely to be widely played in virtually every format, casual or competative. One or two such cards is not the end of the world, and nonbasic lands have always been the more expensive aspect of EDH, so that's not such a big deal.

Anyway, enough prefacing and whatnot. On with the review! As always, we'll start with White.

 Meh. I loved Zombie Apocalypse. This is better than ZA in almost every way. Except that it's anti-Zombie, not pro-Zombie, which is a dealbreaker. Still, seems like it could be playable in mono-white decks, which are often very nearly loaded with tons of Humans, where it'll just be a one-sided Twilight's Call most of the time. Playable, but narrow.
 Gorgeous art, which we're gonna see a LOT of in this set... obviously this is pretty great if you're not running black cards or anything else that requires you to pay life. Amusingly this is one of the few angels that you'd almost never consider running in a Kaalia deck.

The big bad bitch herself. Yes, this is "good" with Armageddon/Wrath/Obliterate effects. Yes, it's "douchebag" with those effects also. But, she also bites it to Path to Exile... and thank God!

 Avacyn will likely be a major roleplayer in EDH. She's an obvious auto-include in Kaalia decks, will likely make a strong general (even at 8 mana!) and will be yet another absurdly poweful tool for Captain Sisay decks. Not quite "every white deck ever" status, but close enough.
 Meh, I hate tuck. I see a lot of people wincing at the six mana CMC and others who seem happy to cast it for retail. Time will tell, but I think this will mostly just be a niche card, not a widespread staple.
Maybe, just maybe, this could have a home in Doran the Siege Tower decks. The sticking point is that "untapped" clause. Omit that one single word and it'd be a definite for Doran, but with that word it's much more questionable.  Beyond Doran, this is pretty much garbage. Anthem effects need to boost power, not toughness, to be good.
 Okay, now this is an Anthem effect I can get behind. Obviously this thing is bonkers in token decks, especially Ghave. But it should be  pretty playable in nearly any creature-laden White deck.
I usually skip commons, unless they're really good. I'm not sure this one is all that good, but I wanted to point out, for those of you who might have overlooked it, that this "flicker" variant doesn't work like other "flicker" effects in the past... most notably, it doesn't have the word "owner" anywhere in the text. What this means is, you can temporarily steal a creature from an opponent with a Threaten or similar effect, then "flicker" it with this card or one of the other flicker effects in AVR, and it comes back into play under your control... permamently.

It it worth the card slot to do this? Probably not, at least in Cloudshift's case, but it's still an interaction that I felt worth calling out.
Crap aura is crap. If it cost like two mana, it'd be great, but it just doesn't do enough to be worth the five mana CMC and the potential card disadvantage. I really can't even see this being worthwhile in Uril decks.
Bad card is bad, but I just wanted to point out that the art for this card is astounding, in that it manages to make genuinely feel sorry for that vampire in the art. That is the single most anquished facial expression ever featured on a Magic card. Poor guy.
 Sweet! It's been a long time since white got a Zombify, and this one is conditionally pretty amazing. If you're not running any Angels, or enough for it to matter, there are better options. But with even a handful of Angels this starts to look very playable. It's especially fun to target Herald at War with this...
Avacyn Restored still does include a number of cards that are very Tribal-dependant, just not as many as the last two sets. This is one of the Tribal cards, and looks to be fairly solid. Not great, but good.

This looks quite powerful. You likely don't need to pump more than 5 or 6 mana into this to make it fairly swingy. It's a card that requires some fairly specific timing to really shine, but if you're patient, you can easily completely turn the tide against an opponent who thinks they have you cornered.
Not bad. A fairly effective way to abuse lots of ETBF effects, while giving you a mildly effective 3/3 flyer in the process.  A cute trick (with cute art, too!), but not all that powerful. Very much a niche card, you'll likely know if this is worth a slot, based on what your deck is trying to do.
Considering how rarely I hardcast Decree of Justice (as opposed to Cycling it), I don't think this is gonna be all that great. But in decks with Mirari's Wake, for example, it could be pretty explosive. Obviously, getting this for the Miracle cost is just downright amazing, but will it be worth setting up the Miracle, via Scroll Rack or something? Dunno, but it very well could be.
Meh. This looks like it could be a White Overrun for token decks, but the EOT duration means Haste will be necessary to take advantage of the boost. Fun and awesome if you can get it to work, but I don't know if it'll be worth jumping through the necessary hoops. Cathars' Crusade just seems better in almost every regard.
Bleh. Overcosted Limited fodder. I don't even know if I'd play this in EDH at five mana, but six is definitely a dealbreaker. Even in a token deck I'd rather just play Congregate.
 I'm disappointed that this card turned out to be very tribal-dependant, but that it helps both Angels and Humans mitigates that disappointment somewhat. Like most tribal cards, this one will be either utterly useless or very good, depending on the deck. Interacts nicely with Defy Death; helps power out Avacyn and Akroma. Neat.
WAY too narrow and too expensive. Four mana for a 2/1? 3 mana to use it's tap/exile ability? No fucking way.
 Meh. I can't think of a really compelling use for this, but there might be something I'm overlooking.
 If you liked that Cloudshift tech I dropped on you above, this is likely the card you want. Also, obviously good in decks with lots and lots of ETBF effects. Blinking an Eternal Witness or Mulldrifter with this seems pretty sweet.
 Battle Mastery without the icky card disadvantage thing Auras have. Uril decks won't care, but almost anything else might. Good redundancy for Rafiq decks. Or large Trample-y creatures. I think Akroma, Angel of Wrath just found her soulmate.
 Duh. This is gonna get major play in groups that allow such effects. Mass tuck is pretty tech against a wide arrary of popular decks and archetypes. And of course that Miracle cost is just absurd. As for me, I already own multiple Hallowed Burials and never play them.
Ouch, double-dose of narrowness sucks. Only good in Human tribal dceks, and only good against other tribal decks, for the most part. Very, very narrow indeed. Downright terrible almost everywhere, but if the stars align just right, could be an alpha-strike enabler. Not likely, though.

Well most of the commons and uncommons suck, but we seem to be getting a higher ratio of playable rares than usual, so we should be pretty happy overall. Of course, White is getting a big push in this set for obvious storyline and flavor reasons. Let's hope the other colors fare this well.

Next up: Blue.



  1. Cathar's Crusade is definitely going into Ghave. Since it was spoiled, I wondered how I even played the deck without it. Juniper Order Ranger is similar but the Crusade is definitely being added.

    Also, Commander's Authority has some dazzling art. I find myself totally engrossed by Jana and Johannes' work. I was scrolling through the spoilers looking for any work done by them. Best new artists on the mtg team in my humble opinion.

    1. I agree on all points, especially the Voss/Schirmer artwork. They've done a couple of "meh" peices, but by and large they have been amazing. Not quite enough to top Jason Chan as best of the current crop of artists (look at Gisela, and tell me that ain't beautiful!), but they are definitely among the best and most exciting artists in the game.

    2. True, I wasn't as impressed by Phyrexian Metamorph or Throne of Geth, they were good but definitely not their best work. Jason Chan is pretty amazing as well, Gisela and Angelic Overseer are excellent examples showcasing his talent.

      Who would you say your favorite all time mtg artists are?

    3. Oh boy, that'd be a long list. But if I had to really be picky about it, it'd be something like this:

      Rebecca Guay
      Quentin Hoover (back when he did Art Nouveau style)
      Jason Chan
      John Avon

    4. Rebecca Guay is pretty good. Commander Eesha is probably my favorite work by her as its a pretty nostalgic card. My first ever magic deck was W/U tribal birds with Eesha and Kangee, I bought it from a friend who was quitting magic and soon after that I was buying Onslaught Boosters; the rest is history. xD

      John Avon goes without saying. Adarkar Wastes is a beautiful piece and one of my favorites by him.

      As for Quinton Hoover, I can't say I'm a huge fan though Tragic Poet, Tundra Wolves and Children of Korlis are all striking pieces.

    5. Yeah, Tragic Poet is awesome. My favorite of his is Vesuvan Doppelganger. But Art Nouveau is my all-time favorite art genre, and Hoover is the only actual MtG artist to do Nouveau stuff.

      Oh, and Terese Neilsen has climbed the ranks to one of my favorites, in recent years.

    6. Terese has some really great pieces. Its interesting to see how her style has changed over the years. I like the artwork for Blessed Orator and a few others but its cards like Hunter's Insight, Descendant's Path and Lifelink that brought my attention to her.

  2. ghave + ashnod's altar + cathar's crusade. I'll take infinite infinity/infinity saprolings, please :D

  3. Yeah, Cathar's Crusade does disgusting things in Ghave even without going infinite.