Avacyn Restored: Week One part 1
Angels and Demons
In my last hub, Awaiting Avacyn, I spoke about my excitement for the upcoming Magic: The Gathering expansion; the third and final set in the Innistrad block released last September, the interesting format of the Dark Ascension pre-release, and my thoughts and ideas that would appear in Avacyn Restored. It appears I was a tad late publishing it, as the very next day both Avacyn and Griselbrand's cards were leaked. Since I tend to stalk the official Wizards site rather than any others, I was only led to these two cards by a friend, starting out with an, "Oh, by the way," kind of statement when he first read Awaiting Avacyn.
Rather than go back and edit everything to adjust for the two card previews (as well as the spoilers that had apparently leaked on MTGSalvation), I would simply hold off until the first week of AR previews. Well, that time is upon us, so let us begin with the two most important (so far) previews for this set:
Avacyn, Angel of Hope is the card that reflects the legendary Archangel of Innistrad. A white Angel with a casting cost of 5WWW, she's a tough cookie at 8/8, but that alone is not all that exemplary, as there are several cards with 1 to 3 CMC which can deal with her easily before she gets to be played, much less cards such as Tragic Slip with the Morbid trigger. It is expected that she would have flying and vigilance; no good white card doesn't usually, but she is also indestructible, as are any other permanents that you control. Damn good against aggro decks I'm sure, but pit her against control and mill, or cards that make you sacrifice creatures, then you might want to have plenty of responses handy.
Griselbrand, the Archdemon who is Avacyn's nemesis- and to me he pales in comparison to Avacyn. His CMC is as much as hers, but requires four black mana instead of three, making his cost 4BBBB for a 7/7 flying and lifelink. Avacyn's 5WWW for flying and vigilance seems a little better since if the two were to go head to head without equipment or buffs, she would easily destroy him, as he does not even have deathtouch. I guess such is the flavor when it comes down to angels versus demons, but I had thought that a legendary demon like Griselbrand would have deathtouch. I guess since he'll pretty much destroy any blocking creature he would not need it save for Avacyn.
Mechanics and Flavor of Avacyn Restored
Along with all-new cards comes a handful of all-new mechanics in Avacyn Restored. While a few things seem to be staying the same, there are a few completely new systems in the works:
Miracle: In the case of Instant and Sorcery cards, there may be a Miracle cost printed on the card. Miracle only takes place if the card is the first card you have drawn during the turn, either yours or any of your opponents' turns; as long as you reveal the card if you intend to use it. I think that Miracle will be a great mechanic- but for players like me who prefer not to let my opponent know what's coming, I can't see myself making much use of it. I cannot wait to see what part it plays in Standard and Limited formats, however.
Soulbond: Maybe it's just me but I'm most excited about this particular mechanic. Of all the new mechanics, however, it seems to have the most probability of being either really good or really bad, depending on how it's played. I simply can't get over pairing two creatures in this manner. I'm excited to see how this gets playtime!
"Loners": Typically these are supposed to be creatures that work best when they are the only creature on your side of the field; unfortunately the creature that Wizards used to explain this particular rule is a bad example. Demonic Taskmaster does not change in any way if he is the only creature- he just makes it so that you cannot have other creatures while he's around. Luckily with this particular demon he does not require you to sacrifice him if you have no other creatures to do so with. When I start seeing more "loner" cards that maybe do get granted special abilities or power-ups for being the only creature, I will be a bit more excited.
Flickering: An interesting mechanic that I also am very interested to see. While this particular style may have been around for a while, the idea that cards will now "flicker" is very intriguing.
Card Previews- First Pool
White is already showing a dominance in AVR, simply by numbers. Out of the 15 cards previewed as of 4/10, five of them are mono-white and one is a Green/White Angel.
Banishing Stroke (5W) is an Instant which quite easily gets around any of your opponent's "indestructibles." Still no good against hexproof, but even if your opponent has one of those annoying Spellskite on the field, then you'll at least get rid of that for a short while and give you a chance to deal with whatever it is your opponent doesn't want you to deal with. Unfortunately, the only thing that makes this card really good is the fact that it has a Miracle cost for W. Otherwise, by the time you have six mana free to spend on an instant spell like that, the game is likely decided and Banishing Stroke may not be of any use to you. However, who knows? Banishing Stroke hardcast may be just the card you need to get rid of whatever will be wiping the floor with you next turn, buying you at least another draw before you die.
Cloudshift (W) is going to be right up there for me as Unsummon is. Well, maybe not, as not many people ever played Unsummon but me, but it always worked wonders for getting a Gideon Jura off my tail, or saving a creature of mine from exile or death. I absolutely love 1-Mana instants that do silly things, but I can imagine Cloudshift will see a lot of play, coming from a casual player like myself of course. I would like to see how this might combo with cards like Oblivion Ring and Fiend Hunter; since I'm not so well versed on rules concerning such fineries in the world of MTG, I would not know. Either way, add white to the color pool that players will learn to fear when there is only one mana open!
Restoration Angel (3W) is a pumped-up creature version of Cloudshift, with flash and everything. It is basically Cloudshift, but you get a spiffy 3/4 flying Angel on your field. Since it has flash, you can play this pretty lady anytime during yours or your opponent's turn; giving your opponent a fairly hefty and very sudden flying blocker to deal with, not to mention being able to flicker another of your creatures to perhaps pull out another combo- all on your opponent's turn! This is not bad for a 3/4 flyer for 3W! With a CMC of only four, Restoration Angel is a pretty cheap card for a white deck which may run more land than you know what to do with.
Silverblade Paladin (1WW) is another cool creature. A 2/2 for three mana isn't great but it isn't bad, especially given the chance to soulbond it with a creature to give them both double strike. In a mono-white humans deck where having lots of humans on the field pumps up other creatures, as well as there being lots of equipment in both Innistrad and Dark Ascension that boost human creatures specifically, Silverblade should be a solid three-drop for you, but not one that you'll want four copies of running around, since there are much better cards like Elite Inquisitor and even Champion of the Parish which are great for aggro and cost less than Silverblade. Of course, pairing Silverblade with Champion might be interesting- pump up your Champion with Silverblade and any other one-cost humans and in a few turns (provided there is no removal) you'll have a double-striking Champion on the field.
Wingcrafter (U) is a 1/1 Human wizard with soulbond; beyond that he's just a standard 1-drop, because he doesn't even have flying himself unless he is paired with another creature. Bond him to a Titan or some other heavy-hitter and you might have use for him, but over all I can't imagine Wingcrafter winning any games.
Demonic Taskmaster (2B), a good, solid 4/3 flyer for only three mana. So you have to sacrifice a creature at the beginning of your upkeep: if you have creatures to spare that aren't as good, it's not a big deal. But according to his text it's also not a big deal if you don't have a creature to sacrifice, as nothing happens to you or Taskmaster by not sacking a creature. He seems really good for what you pay to get him out, but does not seem overly exciting to me.
Demonlord of Ashmouth (2BB) on the other hand, is an upgrade from Taskmaster for only one more black mana. Demonlord costs one more to cast, has flying and is 5/4 versus 4/3. He only requires a single sacrifice upon entering the field (but this of course re-triggers each time he's put into play for any reason) and he has undying. Meaning he's around for at least one death, and he only gets bigger. This means if he is destroyed, he comes back into play without his mana cost as a 6/5, but of course you do have to sack another creature to keep him. Especially with Heartless Summoning, Demonlord would only cost BB and still be as powerful as Taskmaster. If I have the creatures to spare, I would choose Demonlord over Taskmaster, but that's me.
Thunderous Wrath (4RR) is our first red card of the set and our third non-creature. Like Banishing Stroke it has an excruciatingly high CMC, but a Miracle cost of only one red mana. That being said this card does not seem good for six mana and double red and dealing only 5 damage, when cards like Tragic Slip can possibly, for one mana, give a creature -13/-13. This jumps over the pesky indestructible trait some creatures have that would render Thunderous Wrath useless. Yes typically Tragic Slip only does -1/-1 but if morbid triggers it is quickly a much larger bit. Against Avacyn or Griselbrand, Tragic Slip is a better possible choice.
Howlgeist (5G) joins the crowd of high costing creatures but only has a 4/2 and undying to show for it. It seems good in the early game when your opponent potentially only has creatures with 3 or less power but since it would take a while to get him out (Even with Heartless Summoning) he may not be worth it.
Joint Assault (G) is a simple instant spell that pumps a single target creature with +2/+2. It's a good instant card to pick in an green aggro deck for only one mana. What's even cooler, is if target creature is paired with another creature, both creatures get the +2/+2 bonus! If, however, the target creature is soulbound and becomes an illegal target for any reason, neither of the creatures get the bonus.
Sigarda, Host of Herons (2GWW) is the last card in the initial pool on Wizards.com. Sigarda is a 5/5 Green/White Angel with hexproof, with a spiffy little extra in tow. Not only can Sigarda not be the target of spells and abilities, but he renders any opponent's spell or ability that causes you to sacrifice useless. This may not be a very great ability since it is limited only to sacrificing creatures, but combined with Avacyn (or any card that makes your creatures indestructible) and you are virtually untouchable.
Thoughts and Conclusions
In my last hub on AVR I said that Angels and Demons were obviously going to see a lot of play, and so far this seems right. Angels are getting pretty powerful and common with Avacyn Restored, but so are Demons.
What I did not expect was a complete toss out of the transform mechanic or a seemingly solid play of Green/White combos. White is going to become even more hard-hitting than it already usually is, and with cards that allow you to flicker, then Fiend Hunter will get to be even more powerful in mono-white decks. That is not the only new combo; there are many others and still more to be revealed! As soon as the Pre-Release promo card, Moonsilver Spear, is revealed on Wizards.com then that too will have a spotlight here!
I know that there are three other cards that have officially been released on the site, but I will save those for the end of the week when I do a recap of what all has been spilled from 4/10 through 4/15. If you think of any other ways to play these cards, or if you disagree with anything I'm say, comment below! Since I am just a lowly, casual player, there are a lot of mechanics and combos that completely skip over my head!